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The category of this review (B&Q flat pack kitchens) is probably not the terms B & Q would choose themselves. They prefer the more seductive title of “IT Kitchens”, which differentiates their current range from anything which has gone before it.
Previously you had a number of choices when buying from B&Q. You could buy the cheap take away kitchen off the shelf and bundle them into your car, or opt for the more expensive stuff in the showroom. This approach has now been ditched in favour of the new “IT” brand, where all the kitchens available are fully interchangeable with one another.
You basically choose the standard carcases (the bit of the cupboards and drawers which are the structural part) and then add your choice of doors, draw fronts and handles. You can also buy the all the other stuff you need in the right colour, such as the pelmets and cornice and edging tape. Most B&Q’s now stock all the unit carcases as well as a couple of ranges of door fronts, which you can simply buy and takeaway. The entire range (and anything not stocked in store) can also be delivered.
I’m never really one for paying for someone else for doing something which I can just as easily do myself, so from the very outset we decided on a do-it-your self kitchen. We trawled round a couple of kitchen showrooms but only a few tickled our fancy. The Wickes kitchens looked a bit cheap, the MFI kitchens looked great (but past experience with MFI meant we couldn’t be bothered to wait 12 months for a missing part) and the B&Q ones seem to offer a good blend of quality and price.
Armed with brochures, price sheets and specifications we sat down to decided what we wanted to go where. This may be going a little off point, but bear with me on this, but our old kitchen had quite a few faults.
1) The room wasn’t square (nowhere near, although it was supposed to be) 2) The previous owner had decided to build the kitchen units out of house bricks and cover everything which wasn’t brick in aertex 3) There was a soil pipe running down in the corner of the room, which we neither knew its exact position (because it was covered in bricks) or how much space it took up.
For these reasons we decided the B&Q option would be best, because we could simply pop down to the store and buy extra units if the one’s we bought were the wrong size.
PLANNING & COST
We didn’t avail ourselves of the in store design consultant, because our measurements were only rough (because of all the bricks and aertex) and it’d be more fun to do it ourselves.
We downloaded the “planning tool” from the B&Q website, which wasn’t much help. It was basically a bit of graph paper and an idiot’s guide to positioning units. Eventually I cut out unit sized pieces of paper so I could play with my plan until the design was finished. I can’t help thinking it would have been just as easy to include these “cut out and play” units with the planning tool.
The specification brochure contained all the units which were available, together with which door packs would be needed to complete the finished article. However this was full of typo’s including some measurements which were obviously incorrect and little guidance of the distances required for corner units to work successfully.
I eventually ended up with a list of product
Pictures of B&Q Flatpack Kitchens
The Finished Product
codes, quantities and prices. The units came to about £900, to which we added a further £1500 worth of appliances. We decided not to get everything from B & Q; we’d seen nicer work tops somewhere else, screwfix’s cooker hoods were half the price and our oven and hob were new not long ago.PAYING FOR IT AND ORDERING
We were going to enter our list of product codes onto B&Q’s website (DIY.com) until we noticed a special finance offer which was only available in-store.
We were going to pay in cash, so finance offers aren’t really something we take that much notice of, but the offer seemed very good. The “Homeplan Card” offers 6 months interest free credit on all purchases for 6 months, plus you can add new purchases (such as paint and tiles) onto your account during this time. At the end of the 6 months you then simply pay it back in instalments, or settle the lot. Unusually with this type of card, they do not back date interest if you don’t settle in full at the end of the period.
After getting our “Homeplan card” approved at customer services, we were told to go to the kitchen showroom to place our order. This part was a little hectic, they’re didn’t seem to be many members of staff on and it was quite a long wait. Eventually we had our list of meaningless product code translated into an order form and the assistant took time to make sure that everything we had put down appeared on the order. The kitchen we had ordered (‘Cherry Modern’), was on home delivery only. We selected a date which was just 2 weeks away. Incidentally our kitchen style was on sale at 50% off at the time, which seemed to contradict B&Q’s policy of “no sales, just low prices”.
4 days before delivery of our kitchen was due, the appliances arrived from Belling. We didn’t get a choice of when these were to be delivered, and it would have been helpful if they could have been held up for another 2 weeks until we were ready for them. We had to store the dishwasher and washer-dryer in the dining room until they were needed. You can read the review on the dishwasher if Ciao ever get around to listing it.
The day before the kitchen arrived, B&Q called to confirm delivery between 12:00-4:00pm the following day. After 4:00pm came and went, a few phone calls to the customer service centre revealed that they had forgotten to put them on the lorry. Fortunately, the customer service centre and the depot were only about 10 miles away so they agreed to deliver them that day, eventually arriving about 6:30pm.
The driver’s assured me there was no need to check the delivery as they counted them in, and if there were products missing, they’d do a barcode check to find out what had gone astray. About 7:30pm they were still counting and came up with a list of 36 items which had been missed off the delivery. The delivery drivers did carry everything into the house and stored it along side the appliances in the dinning room. It was nice to see that it wasn’t just a stupid ‘kerb-side’ delivery,
Customer service phoned us on the Sunday (the bulk of the kitchen had been delivered on the Friday) apologising for the cock-up and that the entire order would be complete by Tuesday.
On Tuesday Parcel Force arrived with the missing bits and bobs, followed half an hour later by a B&Q truck with the same items. I just accepted them both and took a heap of stuff back to the store as “spares” for a refund!
ASSEMBLING IT ALL
There’s no getting away from it; there’s a lot of packaging. Because all the cabinets and drawer fronts are all in their own packets, some units require 3 or 4 boxes of stuff to be complete. This meant a lot of sorting out and trips to the tip, with the cardboard, polystyrene and plastic all separated for recycling.
Amongst our order was 2 larder units, which really aren’t very good value and have high wastage. You need to buy the shelf pack (which contains, the legs, hinges, top, bottom and back panels, as well as a pack of colour matched side panels and, of course, the doors. For the fridge freezer we only needed less than half this pack, so at about £60 for the lot it wasn’t very good value as most of it wasn’t needed.
While we are on the subject of the end panels, you might want to consider these than the in-fill panels they try and sell you. In the larder end panel pack you get two great big pieces of matching woodwork for about £30, if you buy the infill panel you only get one for £58.00. Admittedly, the larder end panels are only faced on one side (the reverse side is white), but they still do the same job!
The cupboards were relatively east to assemble, the instruction for the most part were quite clear and all the packs had the correct screws and fixings. We did buy a couple of spare screw packs (at £1.00 a go) just in case.
Most of the joints are the screw and cam variety (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve built a flat pack recently) together with glued dowels. They don’t include the glue in the pack (which is a bit mean), so don’t forget to buy some, because it really adds to the overall strength.
We also pushed the boat out and bought the “premium drawers”. With the regular draws, you get the metal runners which bold to the bottom of the draw box and inside the unit. The two just slide inside each other. With the premium draws you get a completely different system.
For a kick off, the drawer boxes themselves are different. The base is made out of 2cm thick chipboard and the back and sides are made out of silver coloured metal. The runners are one complete unit, the sliders and gubbins all attach to the cabinet and the draw box clips on to complete assembly. This has the effect of being able to pull the drawer out fully (so you can get all the way to the back) and the runners have a spring in them which pulls the drawer closed when it’s about 3cm away from closing.
The disadvantage with these is that the holes on the unit don’t line up with this drawer system. You have to measure a new series of holes, drill them (being careful not to go right through the cabinet) and then bolt it together. You also have to carefully measure 2 clips onto the back of the drawer front, which then slides into place. The instructions for this part of the process are most vague, so be patient!
To line everything up once in place, there’s an up /down thumb wheel adjuster on the side of the drawer, which is hidden behind a nice little cover.
A word of warning though; the premium drawers don’t fit into the corner units (the support doesn’t hang down low enough) and the drawers are next to impossible to remove from the runners once they are clipped in to place. The overall action though is really worth the time effort and extra money (double the price of the normal ones) and gives a really quality finish [see picture]
On the end of the units (where the end panel is visible), we opted for the colour matched version. This simply replaces the standard white panel with a coloured one (you through the one included in the pack away), and is well worth an extra tenner or so.
To fill an awkward gap, we opted for a 150 wire pull out unit [see picture]. The idea being that the small narrow unit pulls out 2 wire racks, which you can fill with kitchen paraphernalia. Ours is next to the sink and is now complete with Mr Muscle bottles (they fit perfectly) and other cleaning stuff. The drawback is that the wire section isn’t very firm, no matter how hard you bolt it down it still feels flimsily attached. There also isn’t any door adjustment, which doesn’t really matter, because it always ends up in a different position when closed.
QUALITY OF THE PRODUCT
For a DIY kitchen, they really seem to have gone for the quality angle. The units are all made out of 18mm wood (which is 3mm thicker than most) and, once assembled, are very sturdy.
The plastic legs at each corner are fully adjustable (to cope with uneven floors), and there’s even a cover included to hide the screws on the hinges.
The piece de résistance has to the “premium door buffers”. At 50p per door (in packs of 5), they are worth every penny. These basically damp the closing action of the door; rather than slamming shut the last few cm’s of closing is done very slowly and silently. The quality of the buffers does vary, we had to reject half a dozen of them because they weren’t damped enough – we have also retained some as spares in case they wear out [see picture].
To put the finishing touches to your kitchen, there are three things I’d recommend doing. The first is to buy the plastic cover caps, which fill all the holes inside the units you haven’t used. We used over 150 of these in our relatively small kitchen, but they do make a big difference.
The second is to buy the edging tape. Again a tenner well spent. You simply iron on the coloured edging on to exposed parts the white cabinets, so when the doors are closed your kitchen all matches. Although this process is time consuming it’s easiest before you fix your units to the wall.
The third thing is coloured sealant / filler. If you have any panel gaps, or joints (such as where the pelmet attaches) fill it with this and they’ll disappear. We couldn’t find a good match in B&Q, we actually found the perfect colour in Floors to Go. 2 tubes at £5.00 each, another 10 quid well invested.
We are really pleased with the overall quality of our kitchen. Those extra tenners here and there really paid off, and at least we don’t have to pay it back for another 5 months! It was also great that all the units were complete with all their parts and that it was all delivered inside the house, not dumped on the pavement.
What I didn’t really like was the shortage on the delivery, the quality of instructions for the premium drawers and the flimsy feel of the pull out wire rack.
In short, if I was fitting another kitchen, I’d probably buy it from B&Q. The only thing I would do differently is to get as style which is in-stock so I could buy the units when I needed them and not have to rely on a delivery service.
I’ve included some pictures of the (nearly) finished article, so you can judge for yourself.
The little annoyances for you would have completely thrown me for a loop. If I ever order a DIY kitchen, I'll see if they have ship you over to the states with it to get it installed!
friedagaric 18.08.2004 01:24
Great review - the only reason I didn't rate higher was I think the DIY installation details may have scared me off . We had our B & Q kitchen installed by B & Q and love the results. Interestingly we also had delivery problems (i.e arrived too early - luckily we were in, a couple of bits missing which weren't in stock for a couple of weeks - fortunately didn't hold up the main installation). We also found the phone number given to contact the warehouse was constantly engaged which was extremely frustrating...even our local store couldn't get through and had to email them! I'm new to this ... what's a diamond mean?
dumples 25.05.2004 16:34
Wow, hope my reviews turn out like yours. Still havent done one yet as you lot scare me by your standards. I'll keep reading for a while I think!